How to become an epidemiologist
Begin your career in public health and epidemiology
- Complete a bachelor degree in a field related to epidemiology, such as public health, medicine, biology or biostatistics. Most Australian universities don’t offer a specific undergraduate epidemiology degree, so you can start by building your broader knowledge of health and medicine before specialising in an epidemiologist course.
- Study epidemiology at a postgraduate level, to build your specialist understanding of the field and qualify for epidemiologist jobs. Popular options include a Master of Epidemiology or a Master of Public Health. There are online epidemiology courses available.
- After completing your initial postgraduate epidemiology degree, you may like to specialise even further by completing research at the doctoral level. You could focus on areas like zoonotic infectious diseases, cancer, genetics or cardiovascular disease, and undertake a major research project under the guidance of a supervisor who has expert knowledge of the field.
- Now, you’ll be qualified for senior careers in public health, such as within government departments or large health organisations, or leadership positions in academia and research.
What does an epidemiologist do?
Epidemiologists study disease and disease outbreaks within society. They collect, analyse and visualise data to help the world understand how different diseases occur and how we can respond, whether that’s with vaccines or other public health measures.
Within the field of epidemiology, there are different roles and specialisations. For example, infectious disease epidemiologists may spend time in the lab developing vaccines or out in the field tracking where the disease first occurred. Others may work in community settings like hospitals, or complete specialist research in universities. Some epidemiologists also use their expertise to educate the public by speaking to the media when major disease incidents occur.
Duties and tasks
Specialisations and duties vary among epidemiology roles, but some common responsibilities you may have as an epidemiologist include:
- Research and lab work to analyse pathogens, and disease surveillance to understand how disease spreads
- Data collection in the field, such as through surveys or interviews
- Data analysis and visualisation using specialised software
- Collaboration with other researchers and public health officials
- Presentation of your research to peers and the public through reports, articles, lectures or media appearances
Australasian Epidemiological Association (AEA)
AEA is the professional body for epidemiologists in Australia. It promotes excellence in the field, advocates for funding, and builds strategic alliances with related organisations.
Epidemiology jobs in Australia
Once you have completed your postgraduate epidemiology degree, you may find work within a research institute, university, government department, NGO or hospital.
You may also like to consider the following epidemiology-related roles:
- Health data scientist
- Policy adviser
- Project manager
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